UNLICENSED ACTIVITY IN THE NEWS
recent stories in the news
The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation is warning Floridians to be wary of contractors working without a license in the wake of natural disasters, such as Tampa's recent flooding.
Articles in newspapers such as this one, morning TV shows and other sources urge homeowners to make certain that home service providers are "licensed and insured." Given this common knowledge, advertising, vehicles and business cards often represent that a company is both "Licensed & Insured." I'd like to help you understand why this is important, and how folks try to skirt the intent of this recommendation.
With Florida's hot summers, home air-conditioning units are getting a work out, but when it's time for a repair, be careful who you call.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Finding a good contractor to work on a home that needs repairs can be quite challenging, especially when there are some unlicensed contractors willing to take advantage of homeowners. In an effort to cut down on the number of unlicensed contractors trying to work in the Jacksonville area, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, along with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and the Florida Department of Financial Services, performed an undercover sting operation to nab some of these contractors.
Most professions in Florida are regulated by a state, county and/or city license. Unlicensed professionals typically lack the proper qualifications required of a license and will bid a price much lower than that of a licensed professional just to get the job. Don't be fooled by an estimate that seems too good to be true!
ST. PETERSBURG - The air-conditioning system wasn't working, but it wasn't exactly broken either. Police had removed the AAA batteries from the thermostat, rendering it temporarily useless. The empty house heated up as undercover investigators waited for contractor after contractor - all solicited on Craigslist - to bid on different projects. There were plumbers and electricians, kitchen renovators and, of course, a refrigeration specialist.
Gregory Dearinger told me he doesn't know why the cops arrested him. But St. Petersburg detectives say they have undercover video of Dearinger, who doesn't have a contractor's license, bidding on plumbing and electrical work. The arrests made over the past two days began with a sting operation in May.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Better Business Bureau warns that the aftermath of a hurricane can bring out contractors who take advantage of those who have already been victimized by the storm. It is not uncommon for out-of-town storm chasers to solicit business after a major weather event, the BBB says.
Is the building contractor you're hiring licensed? Along with a couple of dozen other categories and occupations, such as those who sell alcoholic beverages, yachts and real estate, building contractors must have a state license. As part of Unlicensed Activity Awareness Week June 15-19, the Better Business Bureau and the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation are reminding Floridians to thoroughly research professionals and business prior to hiring and to report suspected unlicensed individuals.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Police are looking for a Jacksonville roofing contractor accused of duping elderly victims out of cash and never performing the repair work he promised, authorities said Tuesday. Goran Popovic, 44, is accused of targeting several people with the same scheme: taking money from unsuspecting victims in exchange for roof repairs, but never actually completing the work. Popovic is wanted for schemes to defraud, a felony, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.
DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. - Marsha Seidman called Local 10 News investigative reporter Christina Vazquez after she felt she was swindled by two contractors who installed windows in her Century Village home. The men from Bruna Enclosures, who identified themselves as Chuck and Larry, told Seidman she would not need a permit for the windows in her screen enclosure, but it turns out she did.
St. Johns County, Fla. - A couple put their trust in a local home builder, but was left having to dip into their retirement to stay afloat. Now, the president of a St. Augustine modular home company may soon face criminal charges. Randy Heath, 62, said he wants what he paid for, a home where he could live with his wife, sons and in-laws.
Linda Long wanted to have a tattoo of a rose removed from her ankle. But things didn't go as planned. After undergoing the Rejuvi Eraze process by an employee at Kim's Skin Care Studio of Tallahassee, the site of the procedure, her small tattoo became infected and was not removed. Long's story, which she blogged about, is one of a half dozen connected to the arrest of 40-year-old David B. Coppedge Tuesday by Leon County Sheriff's Office on five counts of practicing medicine without a license.
Primate Products, a monkey breeding company at the center of the MonkeyGate scandal in Hendry County, Florida, assigned invasive surgeries to vet techs instead of veterinarians - in violation of state law. David Roebuck, a former employee at the Florida company, told TheirTurn that vet techs performed C-section abortions on pregnant monkeys so that they company could sell the fetal organs and the mother's milk.
Even if you do everything right, a storm or accident could require you to hire a professional. Find three local companies with solid reputations and ask for detailed quotes. Make sure you study each one carefully so you understand the scope of all three bids. Hicks warns homeowners to steer clear of anyone going door-to-door in your neighborhood after a storm. They often do shoddy work and aren't around for any follow-up issues.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A Grove Park woman said she was scammed by a contractor who took her money and never came back. Donna Zamalloa hired alleged contractor Jeff Markant to do some improvements on her kitchen. She said she paid Markant $12,000 for the renovations, but her kitchen was left in disarray. "I started feeling a little weird because more money was needed, and I didn't want to make any qualms about it and I didn't want to start yelling at him until everything was finished," said Zamalloa.
After 25 years in the army, Marc Debearn and his wife bought a home in Lithia. They hired a local company, New Age Hardscapes, Inc., to create a gorgeous backyard and outdoor kitchen. But now the Debearns are in a bind. New Age Hardscapes, Inc., hasn't showed up in weeks to finish the job. Company owner Joshua Brown claims he hasn't had the money to finish this work.
Pasco County is cracking down on unlicensed contractors who leave residents on the hook for shoddy work, or who take the money and run without doing the job. County officials and the Pasco Sheriff's Office joined forces in October to launch a pilot program aimed at protecting consumers from unscrupulous contractors. Licensed contractors also lobbied for tougher actions against competitors who don't follow the rules, county officials said.
ORLANDO -- When Brittany and Dan Brown of Seminole County took bids for a home addition project in the fall of 2013 they were convinced that they had the right contractor for the job. The job was never completed, however. Ben David McCoy of McCoy Construction Projects Inc. told the couple that he was licensed and experienced and would complete the 240-square-foot addition in six weeks, the Browns said. He presented a state license number, and they handed him $15,000 for materials and construction. Last year the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR), issued a cease and desist notice to McCoy for operating without a state license.
MANATEE -- Unlicensed contracting is now officially prohibited in Manatee County, making the county consistent with state law. Manatee County Commission unanimously approved the new ordinance in a public hearing at its Tuesday meeting.
PENSACOLA, Fla. - The Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) today issued a consumer advisory after the Division of Regulation successfully conducted a sting operation targeting unlicensed contractors in the Pensacola area. The unlicensed individuals were issued Notices to Cease and Desist for offering to perform electrical and construction services that require a state-issued professional license.
A Broward County man who swindled senior citizens out of money by posing as a contractor is under arrest, officials say. This is the second arrest for Niraj Sethi in less than a month on similar charges, according to the Florida Division of Insurance Fraud. Sethi was first arrested as a part of an undercover sting in Tamarac in January. At that time, Sethi was found to be contracting work without a license and operating without workers' compensation insurance.
MANATEE, Fla. - An undercover sting operation targeting unlicensed contractors and contractors without workers' compensation insurance in Manatee County resulted in 11 arrests, the Florida Department of Financial Services said Friday. The three-day operation was a multi-agency effort that included the Florida Division of Insurance Fraud, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, the Manatee County Sheriff's Office, Holmes Police Department and manatee County Code Enforcement.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A builder accused of scamming $80,000 from a couple was tracked down by Action News. Jack and Donna Cheek handed over $80,000 to have their retirement home built. The Cheeks said that last May they wrote the check to Marvin Lenhart of Lenhart Log Cabins Inc. and their home was supposed to be built in August 2014. However, a lawsuit filed by the couple says Lenhart left town, cashing the check in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
TAMPA, Fla. - Jane and Dennis Thomas say contractor Michael Baker made a good impression on them when they first approached him to build a bedroom addition onto their rural home in Citrus County through his company Bake Construction & Management, LLC. They just happened to see the sign on his truck during a visit to Ocala and gave him a call. The Thomas' say they did some cursory background checks and didn't uncover any red flags, so they signed a deal October 10 for Baker to build a $65,920 master bedroom and bathroom addition.
BOCA RATON, Fla. - When Susan Sabatino saw a "Call Christina" investigation about a contractor walking out on an older couple, the story was all too familiar. "(It was) exactly to the letter what he had said to me," she said, referencing Alejandro Morlans of Alex Millwork, Inc. "My heart -- you're hurting my heart. You're a terrible person. I'm a good person.' He was demented."
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) participated in a multi-agency undercover sting operation on January 21 – 22 targeting unlicensed contractors in Broward County. Working together with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, Broward County Licensing Investigations & Enforcement and the Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud, investigators identified 17 unlicensed contractors who were allegedly offering estimates for contracting services which require a Florida license.
MELBOURNE, Fla. - An investigation conducted by a host of agencies produced four arrests on Thursday. According to a release from the Brevard County Sheriff's Office, the BCSO Economics Crime Unit along with the Board of County Commissioners Planning & Development, the Florida Workers' Compensation Fraud Division and the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, conducted a two-day investigation targeting unlicensed contractors in Brevard County on Wednesday and Thursday.
BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. - Over the past two days, the Brevard County Sheriff's Office Economics Crimes Unit partnered with the Board of County Commissioners Planning & Development, the Florida Workers' Compensation Fraud Division and the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) to conduct a county-wide investigation to identify and address unlicensed contractors.
NEW PORT RICHEY, FL (WFLA) - A New Port Richey woman is outraged that her insurance company paid $39,000 for repairs to her kitchen, and now the company she thought she paid placed a lien against her for nonpayment. A small fire ruined Michelle Bell's kitchen in April, so she hired MIT Restoration LLC to repair it.
GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. - A Clay County family hired a handyman to remodel their home and what he did is less than expected. "He did not complete the work," said Connie Croston. "He left a mess." In October, Croston hired the unlicensed contractor based on a recommendation from her lawn service; not unusual but now she knows it was not the best practice.
The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) participated in three multi-agency undercover sting operations targeting unlicensed contractors in Miami Gardens, Pasco County and Sarasota. Investigators identified a total of 44 unlicensed contractors who were allegedly offering estimates for contracting services which require a Florida license.
NEW PORT RICHEY — The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office on Monday announced that 11 people posing as contractors have been arrested in a recent sting.
PASCO COUNTY - A two-day sting between the Pasco County Sheriff's Office and some state regulatory agencies have put 11 people behind bars they say were unlicensed contractors in the county.
MIAMI - The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) participated in a multi-agency undercover sting operation on November 20-21 targeting unlicensed contractors in the Miami Gardens area. Investigators identified 14 unlicensed contractors who were allegedly offering estimates for contracting services which require a Florida license.
SARASOTA COUNTY - Twenty people were arrested in a recent Sarasota County Sheriff's Office investigation targeting unlicensed contractors. Called Operation Freelancer, the investigation was conducted Nov. 13 - 15, according to the Sheriff's Office.
OVIEDO, Fla. - The owner of an Oviedo plumbing company has been operating without a license in Central Florida at least since 2011 and is now facing "escalated enforcement" by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, along with possible criminal charges and fines.
Orange City, Fla. - Six men are accused of running an illegal contracting business in Volusia County, according to the Orange City Police Department. Three law enforcement agencies worked together to arrest the men allegedly performing unlicensed contracting work, police said.
LAKE PARK, Fla. -- An unlicensed contractor has been arrested on charges he defrauded 25 condo residents out of more than $100,000, according to a Palm Beach County sheriff's arrest report.
Anthony Violi, 47, of Royal Palm Beach, was taken into custody Wednesday after an investigator said residents at Lake Harbour Towers in lake Park paid for impact windows that were never installed.
The Department of Business and Professional Regulation Jacksonville Investigative Office conducted an undercover sting operation on September 11 – 15 targeting unlicensed contractors. Nine individuals provided estimates for construction and/or electrical services that they do not hold the proper license to perform.
TAMPA, Fla. -- A Bay area man has a pattern of money and leaving customers, and other contractors, in a bind, according to 10 News. Jeremy Howden tells 10 News there are a lot of reasons why he's had problems with his jobs, from financial woes to issues with other construction workers.
LEE COUNTY, Fla. -- Lee County's growing construction activity may be good for builders and remodelers but for 14 unlicensed contractors from Lee and Collier counties it was a bad time to place an ad for work. The Lee County Sheriff's Office Economic Crimes Unit conducted a three-day sting targeting unlicensed contractors. It began Tuesday at a home in San Carlos Park.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - There are plenty of scam artists trying to take advantage of people around the state this summer.
DESTIN, Fla. - If you pay someone to improve your home, either by tearing part of it down, improving an existing structure or building an addition, that person or entity is generally considered to be acting as a "Contractor" by the Florida Construction Licensing Board.
Venice, Fla -Sixteen unlicensed contractors were arrested were arrested during a three-day undercover sting operation that ended Thursday, police report.
The Laker/Lutz News 6/2/14
Land O'Lakes, Fla. - With hurricane season now under way, the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation is reminding consumers, businesses and professionals to protect themselves following a natural disaster by hiring only licensed professionals to perform necessary repairs.
TALLAHASSEE, Florida -- Hurricane season is just two days away. If you're planning on getting work done to your home, the state wants you to get it done with a licensed professional.
Orlando, Fla. - Colen Thomas and his wife thought they were getting a great deal on a new air conditioner unit in their Tavares home.
The Gainesville Sun 5/13/14
Gainesville, Fla. - For thousands of Floridians, swimming pools and spas are places for families to spend time together and have fun. As we recognize National Water Safety Month, it’s important to ensure that you and your loved ones are safe in and around pools and spas. Although it’s important to make sure that everyone knows how to swim and perform CPR, safety measures begin at construction.
Gulf Breeze, Fla. - Confirm that the contractor you choose is licensed to do business in Florida. You can verify a contractor’s license and check to see if there are any complaints against him or her by calling the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation. You should also ask the contractor for references from previous work.
Tallahassee, Fla. - A state agency is asking storm victims to be on guard and aware of potential scams. The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation is urging consumers to protect themselves from unlicensed workers offering to make repairs to their homes or businesses.
Tallahassee, Fla. - On April 30, 2014, Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for 26 counties across Florida due to heavy rainfall and flooding. As a result of the declaration, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) is urging consumers to protect themselves from unlicensed individuals offering to make repairs on their homes or businesses.
St. Johns County, Fla. - The suspects are accused of falsely identifying themselves as contractors, and a 15th suspect was charged with possession of cannabis.
A St. Johns County sting targeting unlicensed contractors ended with 15 arrests Monday and Tuesday after the men bid on repairs then showed up to do the work.
A two-week undercover sting has resulted in 15 arrests in St. Johns County.
A joint state and county sting of unlicensed contractors netted 26 tradesmen, some of whom had been cited before, the Broward sheriff's office said.
Fort Lauderdale, Fla. - Thirty people were arrested following a Broward Sheriff's Office investigation into unlicensed contractors committing fraud throughout the county. Several state and local agencies collaborated with BSO in the two-day operation last week.
FT. MYERS , Fla. - Keeping a home in two places can be challenging. As snowbirds know, you need someone you can trust to look out for your northern home when you’re in Southwest Florida and someone to look out for the Florida house when you’re up north.
The DBPR Tallahassee Regional II Office conducted a construction sting March 25 -27. Fifteen suspects showed up at the undercover house and proposed to provide construction services, which included the removal and replacement of windows, removal and installation of a hot water heater and the removal and installation of an air conditioning system.
The DBPR Jacksonville Regional III Office conducted a construction sting that consisted of roofing and HVAC advertisements on Craig’s List.
SARASOTA, Fla. - Erin Holdgate is feeling a bit cold after learning one of the contractors at her condo complex had no license to do any of the AC work.
SARASOTA, Fla. - An unlicensed contractor has been arrested and charged with 34 new charges by the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office.
www. sunnewspapers.com 4/4/2014
SARASOTA, Fla. - Authorities charged a Sarasota man Thursday with 33 felony counts of operating as an unlicensed contractor for allegedly taking thousands of dollars from a client by never pulling permits or performing any of the work, according to the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office.
JACKSON COUNTY, Fla. - The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation recently launched the “Report Unlicensed Activity” function within the DBPR Mobile app, giving consumers the ability to report unlicensed activity in real time.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation now offers a way for you to report unlicensed business activity in real time.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) recently launched the “Report Unlicensed Activity” function within the DBPR Mobile app allowing consumers to report unlicensed activity in real time.
POLK COUNTY, Fla.- Polk County Sheriff's deputies went undercover to find unlicensed contractors performing work in the county.
TALLAHASSEE (WTXL) – The Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) cautions consumers in the Tallahassee area to be on the lookout for unlicensed individuals who offer professional services requiring a state license.
TALLAHASSEE - A home on Bronough Street in Tallahassee was the site of a recent sting operation.
TALLAHASSEE - DBPR and the Florida State Boxing Commission (FSBC) are warning Floridians that unsanctioned combat sports events are unsafe and illegal in the state.
Unlicensed combat sports are often undetected until someone files a complaint or gets hurt, so the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation has issued a cautionary note to warn consumers and amateur athletes about the dangers of these events, whether you're a participant or bystander.
POLK COUNTY, FL (WFLA) - Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd is reminding residents to watch out for and report any suspicious activity involving door-to-door home repair solicitors.
Gainesville/Tallahassee Sting Operations
CAPE CORAL, Fla. - Our Call for Action team had been working with the city of Cape Coral for months in order to get an inside look at how unlicensed contractors get caught and now we have the exclusive video of how the city is fighting back to keep you safe.